HRM councillor Matt Whitman said he flew to Toronto to meet with Uber representatives because he didn’t like the answer he got from CAO Jaques Dubé at council last week at council when Dubé said Uber wasn’t ready to set up in Halifax.
“I flew here on my own dime,” said Whitman via text message.
“CAO Dube BS’d me and I’m here to get the truth.”
Ridesharing has been an ongoing point of contention at City Hall for years and the debate revved up again when Whitman accused staff of not acting “urgently enough” when clearing the way for rideshare services like Uber and Lyft to operate in Halifax.
Dubé went on the record at council and deflected comments from Whitman, suggesting Uber wasn’t ready to offer its services here.
“Uber is not willing to have a conversation now, they’re not ready to come into this market,” said Dubé during a July 30th meeting.
“Let me make this very clear. Perhaps you didn’t clearly understand that when you said that, but I want to make sure that everyone understands we can’t have a conversation with someone who doesn’t want to speak with us.”
One thing remains clear: the people of Halifax would welcome the transportation services here, as a recent poll, which surveyed more than 13,000 people, showed that 88 percent of the respondents were in favor of Uber and Lyft options.
Whitman flew to Toronto and met with Uber’s public policy representative Morva Rohani, and said the meeting was positive.
“I came to Toronto to meet with Uber because I felt like I was getting some misinformation from our top bureaucrat,” said Whitman. “And I wanted to come here and hear for myself if Uber truly is still interested in Halifax.”
Whitman received the assurance he wanted to hear and said Uber was still interested in Halifax, while a spokesperson confirmed the meeting and said talks will continue between the two sides.
“We’re always open to having conversations with municipal governments about ridesharing,” said spokesperson Josh McConnell. “Last month, Uber representatives visited Halifax to meet with the city and staff. We have nothing to announce for Halifax at this time, but continue to have conversations with the City.”
HRM Ride Hail spokesperson Stephen Parker says the CAO’s comments were likely taken out of context and said Uber and Lyft could theoretically set up here tomorrow but it’s the municipality that has to change its bylaws to allow it.
“It’s time; it should be expedited,” said Parker, regarding the ride-sharing bylaws. “I know there’s a system in place at city hall to change amendments but it shouldn’t take a year to make amendment changes to something that is so widely supported and has been done everywhere else.”
CAO Jaques Dubé issued an update and timeline, saying staff is working with all stakeholders to prepare a ridesharing report and proposed changes to bylaws.
It’s expected that the draft ridesharing report will come back in December to council, leaving the potential for ride-sharing options like Uber to be operating in Halifax by late next summer.
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